poems by John Grey

My Wife and I at the Symphony


Five women in the orchestra,
she counts them
like the conductor counts time.

Two violin, one cello,
one oboe, one bass clarinet.

She hears them together,
a generous polyphony
of all things true
to their own ambiguity.

Or as part of the whole,
more amazed than she should be
at the seamlessness.

But she hears each singly
like nagging thoughts late at night.

It’s wonderful music
but never quite free
of who’s playing it.




Notes from a Relationship


She jerked her lips back
and birds soared out of her teeth.
She took a quick step toward me,
shaking free bits of past ship-wrecks.
She stood there in the debris of her being.
Anything to get civilization off her back.

Her eyes were wide, caked in slender gold dust.
Her black hair nudged up to me.
Her black satin trousers followed.
But then she stopped, laughed loud,
tongue flapping
like a blade of bladderwort
in a wind off the Canadian prairie.

Her old defiance took the easy route
into a cacophony of owls and parrots,
hens and trumpeting swans.
She slapped hands against hips,
smiled the birds back into their nest,
vacuumed up the pieces of her…
they settled neatly into her old self.

Her hatred was just being playful,
that was all.
This happens all the time to me…
never to her.




An Apology that is not an Apology


I’m not a gardener.
Pruning rose bushes is no way into my feelings.
Nor am I an archer.
I appreciate a bow’s feminine shape
but I’ve never been compelled to grab one.
Poetry is what I do.
There’s no way I can start over.
So you’re offended.
You read what I have written.
You took it the right way
which, in your case, was the wrong way.
I have no excuse.
This is how poetry works.
The black and white, even the gray,
get free associated until they drop.
Yes, there’s nothing else I can do at this point
other than explain the process.
And, once again, my clever honesty has failed me.
I overshot civilized parameters.
My unconscious mind got the better of my tact.
Memory was reenacted raw,
not coated in fine sugar.
And now you’re not speaking to me.
Some lines of poetry have put me in the wrong.
I can’t even claim them as a therapeutic vehicle
that has nothing to do with you
but everything to do with me.
I’m sorry but not every recollection
is like a string of sparkling jewels.
There’s rage. There’s hurt. There’s ugliness.
Sometimes words are like that.
They embrace the truth
but turn their back on people.


poems by John Grey

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